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For the last decade, aquaponics has become one of the premier sustainable farming techniques that has gained popularity amongst environmental communities. Because aquaponics leverages a closed-loop system that uses both fish and plants together, the ability to produce nutritious crops is now available to everyone. As topics such as sustainable farming and natural resource depletion continue to grow, understanding why aquaponics is important for the future will become more critical as environmental organizations look for ways to solve these problems.
Why is aquaponics important for the future of farming, and why does it matter? The answer is, aquaponics provides an efficient and scalable method of growing fruits and vegetables while using less water and soil than industrial farming. Also, the process doesn’t require the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
In this article, we will explore the several advantages of aquaponics and how it can be the future of eco-farming and food production.
A Global Food Crisis
For the past three years, the number of people experiencing hunger has increased, as stated in a published report by The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018. According to the analysis, 800 million people worldwide are undernourished in 2017.
Hunger becomes even more pronounced in areas that experience droughts and are affected by climate change. If this trend continues, it would be a real challenge to hit the goal of Zero Hunger by 2030.
Besides hunger, the report also found that obesity cases are also on the rise due to easy access to unhealthy diets. One of the solutions is the need for a significant change in food systems to allow the growing population easy access to nutritious food.
Because of this seemingly never-ending crisis, there has been a rising demand for sustainable farming systems. And aquaponics fits in this category as it is a system that can thrive even when the environmental conditions of a region aren’t conducive to traditional farming techniques.
Aquaponics and the Future of Food
Aquaponics is a modern-day agricultural innovation, that in many ways, breaks many of the traditional rules of farming. This includes the ability to grow crops without soil or acres of land. Traditional farms often need to rotate their crops and adhere to the principles of sowing and harvesting seasonality. This is due to the fact that some crops are inherently more strenuous on the land than others, so crop rotation is important to restore balance back into the soil. But, perhaps the most important benefit of aquaponics is that compared to industrial and organic farming, aquaponics has minimal impact on the environment.
With a growing population comes the rising demand for food, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food demand will increase between 59 and 98% by 2050. In addition, a report by Zion Market Research estimated that the demand for organic food and beverage worldwide will grow from $124.7 billion in 2017 to around $323.1 billion by 2024, with North America expected to dominate the market.
With this trend, farmlands will likely be expanding to meet those demands. Eventually, though, these lands will reach their limit, which is why there is a need to find better and more sustainable ways to grow organic food, like aquaponics.
Reasons Why Aquaponics Are Important For The Future
Below are several reasons why aquaponics is a beneficial farming practice and a promising solution to sustainable food production:
The growing population and food demands mean more croplands to develop. There will be more deforestation projects to carry out, which will consequently lead to more wasteful irrigation, greenhouse gases emission, and pollutants in the form of fertilizers and pesticides – as in the case of industrial agriculture.
With aquaponics, the future means there will be no need to clear more land as this system can still be operational even without land. For commercial aquaponics, an abandoned or existing warehouse can be used to run the system.
There will also be no wasteful irrigation involved because there is no soil to water. Instead, the water used in fish tanks can be reused over and over. Lastly, there will be no chemical runoff from using fertilizers and pesticides, because aquaponics systems don’t use them in the first place. In this self-sufficient artificial ecosystem, the fish provide food for the plants, while the plants filter the water to be sent back to the fish tank.
No Petroleum Usage
As established, aquaponics doesn’t use soil, which means no need for tillage, as traditional soil farming does. It also means there is no need to use heavy machinery or any farm equipment that runs on gas to carry out the work.
Moreover, since weeds are not a problem in aquaponics, mechanical weed removers or even herbicides are not necessary. Depending on the types of system you prefer (media grow beds or floating rafts), aquaponics is generally growing plants in waist-high systems. When harvesting crops, it is much easier and doesn’t use heavy machinery.
Aquaponics systems can be operated anywhere, regardless of land or climate conditions. In traditional farming, soil fertility and biodiversity are factors that need to be corrected to grow thriving plants. Aquaponics doesn’t have to deal with soil issues because there’s no soil involved.
Climate conditions are also important for plants and you want to make sure they are protected from extreme temperatures. Since aquaponics can be done in an outdoor or indoor environment, you have the option to grow crops any season. Even people in urban areas with limited spaces can grow their own food with aquaponics.
Despite being able to use only 90 percent less water, and that it requires no soil or tillage, aquaponic growers can harvest three to four times more food and can do so in a shorter amount of time. For example, a head of lettuce typically takes around 60 days in the soil to reach full maturity, however, approximately only 36 days in aquaponics systems.
When operating aquaponics systems, there is a strict prohibition of fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide use. Even organic-certified fertilizers or pesticides can do harm to the fish and destroy the balance in the artificial ecosystem. Chemical-free produce becomes important as more people are conscious about the food they consume.
Conclusion: Why Aquaponics Is Important For The Future
The several benefits of aquaponics as an eco-friendly, sustainable farming technique and as a healthy source of food make this system important to the future of food production. With aquaponics, growing food anywhere, regardless of location and climate conditions, is possible. That said, while no technique is free of problems, it appears that environmental organizations and governments around the world are beginning to see how aquaponics could be a solution to food shortage issues in their countries.